Book: American Gods (American Gods 1) by Neil Gaiman
Release Date: June 21st 2011
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Other books by this author I reviewed
Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell boxset
A storm is coming…
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.
So far I’ve really liked what I’ve read of Neil Gaiman’s books and while I did enjoy this one it also did not quite work for me either. I think this might be the case of it is me not you. Hey, that happens every now and then. Regardless that does not make this a bad book.
“Shadow had heard too many people telling each other not to repress their feelings, to let their emotions out, let the pain go. Shadow thought there was a lot to be said for bottling up emotions. If you did it long enough and deep enough, he suspected, pretty soon you wouldn’t feel anything at all.”
For me the book was off the a good start. We meet Shadow when he still in prison. His wife dies in a car accident and he is released early. Shadow is an interesting character to follow. But sometimes I wished he had a bit more emotional response to everything that was happening. On the other hand there are so many eyebrow lifting things that happen that it might be hard to form a real emotional reaction to those. Also Shadow’s emotions might have taken away from the other elements of the story. Regardless however the start where Shadow meets Wednesday and becomes his employee was intriguing. There were so many hints to things possibly to come and this supernatural world that Gaiman was creating.
There is an idea in this book that immigrants take their gods to America that I quite love. But our new age also created new gods. The idea of gods needing the worship of us is of course not new but our ‘obsession’ of technology creating new gods and giving them more power through that was a nice addition to that.
“What I say is, a town that isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not fooling a soul.”
But after about 120 pages the story tripped. The pace of the plot slowed to a crawl and we took a few side tours that I was not that interested in. The promise that the start held just never did come to fruition for me. It all stayed under the surface. Hinted here and there but very little straightforward said. Which is a shame because there are so many interesting side characters like Jaqual and Ibis or Mr. Nancy. I also did not enjoy the addition of Laura. I could care less about her after what she did to Shadow.
The ending strengthened again and did straight out say a few things that I wanted but because the middle is so shrouded in mist it missed having a real impact on me. I also felt that the ending diffused the supposed storm very easily. Maybe too easily?
“Well, you’re grown-ups, ” she said, in a tone of voice that implied that they weren’t, and that even if they were they shouldn’t be.”
I would certainly not recommend for anyone start with this book when starting Neil Gaiman’s work. This book is just one of those that isn’t for a very large group of people I feel. I am still very curious how this will play out on screen though with the tv show that started at the end of April.